(Excerpted from ‘Sweet Shop’ by Amit Chaudhari and published with the permission of Penguin. As a chronicler of the city of Calcutta, Amit Chaudhuri’s works delve into the by lanes and sweetshops of the city to discover the delights of the ordinary, stimulated through food and memory in his latest collection of poetry, Sweet Shop.)
Here are a few verses from the book that will transport you to a world of poetry, food and memories.
1. In ‘Sweet Shop’, Chaudhuri discovers the ‘whole universe’, as it were, at the sweet shop’s window, as he peeks in through the mind’s eye.
“The whole universe is here.
Every colour, a few
On the verge of being barely tolerable.
Every shape as well as minute flourishes
Created in the prehistory
Of each sandesh by precise pinches.”
2. ‘Bhimnag’ becomes an exploration of North Calcutta through a famous sweet shop of the same
Processions from College Square
Will veer towards the unobtrusive fork
At Nirmal Chandra Street and make their way
To Esplanade, intermittently
Protesting a malignant dispensation.”
3. In ‘Channa’ we find a delightful exploration of the heritage of a beloved Bengali sweet
“Three years ago I realized
Was not timeless.
It was brought in by the Portuguese.”
4. Anyone who has ever lived in Bengal will relate to these lines about the kalbaishakhi
It’s raining upward, drops
Bruising the stone from below.
The air upon your cheek
Begins to melt like ice.”
5. ‘Sandesh’ explores the eternal appeal of this Bengali sweet
“You also mean
That stays news”
6. When sweets are bae
“In Calcutta, too, sweet shops
Are meant for dispersals.”
7. If you’ve ever travelled to College Street north/central Kolkata and have not tried the deep-fried snacks (Telebhaja) from “Kalika”, have you even to Kolkata?
“A hand scoops potato peels
And fingers brush your breast. You notice
Telebhaja soak up the paper.”